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Letter Box


A letter from an alum about democracy in the Middle East

June 25, 2003

It was interesting to note that Dr. Eva Bellin (May 14, 2003) was able to summarize approaches to democracy in Iraq without mentioning the role of war crimes tribunals. There has been consistent resistance, within the current presidency of George Bush, to the notion of a permanent International tribunal for crimes against humanity and for war crimes. Perhaps Dr. Bellin shares this resistance. However, the utility of a permanent International tribunal should be apparent in Iraq, where the current state of the judiciary within Iraq is, at best, tattered.

The likelihood of a stable and democratic Iraq without first bringing to justice those who have carried out crimes against Iraqi citizens (and the citizens of others nations) is limited. Why not first attempt to provide an example for the construction of an independent and consistent judiciary in Iraq by providing an example through the conduct of trials by the best jurists the international community has to offer?

Parenthetically, the early resistance of the occupying U.S. military administration to countenance the return of U.N. inspectors to verify the dismantlement and safeguarding of the previous regime's infrastructure for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction bodes poorly for the hope of the participation of broader international institutions in the reconstruction of health and safety within Iraq.

Kendall P. Brown ’81
Wauwatosa, Wis.

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May 14, 2003

Eva Bellin’s *93 article on building a democracy in Iraq (Notebook, May 14) struck a rather ironic chord. In it, she writes that “free and fair elections, guaranteed civil liberties, and the separation of powers between the branches of government are what make a democracy a democracy.” By this definition, America is becoming less of a democracy with every minute that George W. Bush sits at the helm. As we saw during the 2000 presidential race (when various people were disenfranchised and the Supreme Court ultimately chose the winner) we no longer have fair and free elections. And the President’s Patriot Act, along with other measures that dismember the Bill of Rights in the name of homeland security, is slowly repealing our civil liberties. Further, Bush’s ongoing attempts to mix government and religion are weakening our separation of powers. Perhaps we should have remedied our own problems with democracy before running off to replicate this model in Iraq.

Jessica Walker ‘01
New York, N.Y.

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